We tell boys not to cry. We define a 'real' man as someone that does not need anyone’s help and keeps his feelings to himself. Girls are conditioned from childhood, whether in fairy tales, popular movies, or parenting styles, to be rescued rather than a rescuer; to be a burden rather than a burden lifter. Society’s picture of gender roles -- and even the gender roles promoted by professed Torah believers -- are often very different from the picture God actually painted of the first man and woman.
“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:18-25).
The fact that woman came from the man alone should make the promotion of undue gender stereotypes (basing behavior on gender rather than personality among Torah believers) foolish. Furthermore, contrary to the gender roles promoted by society, the man God made was not to stay alone and keep his feelings to himself. God gave Adam a companion so his feelings could be expressed. God didn’t create Eve because she needed a man, God created man because he needed a woman--yet we can’t forget woman is part of him not above him. Woman wasn’t created just to be a pretty; she was made to be to be a helper comparable to man, not beneath him, to help him, not to burden him.
And if God gave man a helper, it doesn’t make someone less of a man to ask for help from a woman, nor does it take away from someone’s femininity to be able to get something done without relying on a man to do everything. It was not supposed to be “a man’s world” as some say it is. God intended for both genders to have dominion over the earth. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:27-28).
Daughters as well as sons should be taught to be a benefit to society and to provide for themselves, instead of being trained or encouraged to depend on others to do everything for them. Sons as well as daughters should not be emotionally crippled by being taught that feelings are a sign of weakness that should be hidden and kept to themselves; children should be taught emotional honesty and healthy forms of self-expression. Children of either gender should be trained to be emotionally stable, productive individuals, not products to fit into the box of someone’s expectations. Men and women, as long as they follow the will of God, should be who they are without shame.
Believers need to be careful not to compromise their children’s emotional health and cripple their personal development by promoting society’s foolish rules for gender behavior -- out of fear that their children will not conform to the Torah’s standards for manhood and womanhood and start cross dressing or something the Torah prohibits -- and actually read what the Torah says instead. There is no need to add nonsense to God’s words to avoid sin. Many people confuse gender stereotypes with the righteous values of the Torah, and that is really not healthy.